No Action on Helix & Bike Safety

Written by Briana Warsing.

Following a July incident in which a cyclist was injured when he was struck from behind by a passing car while riding up the Island’s helix ramp, both the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) have considered ways to make Island access and egress safe for cyclists, resulting in a lot of back and forth, inaction, and ultimately a “soft ban” on bicycles from the helix.

At present, the RIOC plan is to add signage at the top and bottom entrances to the helix, directing cyclists to use the Motorgate elevators to enter and exit the Island. At the most recent meeting of RIOC’s Operations Advisory Committee, RIOC President Charlene Indelicato stopped short of calling this a “ban,” however, because “[RIOC] can’t enforce it” without posting a Public Safety officer at the helix, and “we don’t have the manpower.”

Within RIRA, the cause has been taken up by the Public Safety Committee. “We decided to shift from being reactive to being proactive,” explained Committee Chair Erin Feely-Nahem at the September 9 Common Council meeting. She added that bike safety has been brought to her committee before, and now they want it on everyone’s radar.

RIRA failed to act on the Committee’s motion, voting to table it in favor of further research on the issue.

At the Operations meeting, Caitlin Goodspeed, the Roosevelt Island representative from the cycling advocacy group Bike New York, noted that, prior to the accident in July, cyclists had been using the helix for years without issue, and her group “adamantly oppose[s] banning cyclists from the ramp.” In her opinion, safety concerns are best resolved through “signage and education.”

RIOC Board Member Michael Shinozaki was blunt at the Operations meeting, stating simply “I don’t think it’s safe for bikes to be on the helix.” He believes that the solution may be to restore the Motorgate escalators, and have cyclists use them rather than the helix. “We are not trying to ban cyclists in any way,” he said, “it’s just that that spot is dangerous.”

The Motorgate escalators have been out of service for years, and their condition is unknown to RIOC. According to Indelicato, the Cornell engineering team has offered to “look at the escalators...find out what the story is and [whether] the escalators can be used.”

In the meantime, RIOC intends to focus on “striping” (repainting the yellow and white lane markers on the crumbling helix roadway), signage directing non-motorized vehicles to the Motorgate elevators, and cyclist education offered by Bike New York.

Tags: RIRA RIOC Briana Warsing Island Life

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